08/16/2012 07:06 EDT | Updated 10/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Tremblay reflects local 'silent majority,' mayor says

Another Quebec mayor has come out blazing with comments about the province's religious traditions and ethnicity, as inflammatory statements from one of his peers continue to simmer.

Trois-Rivières Mayor Yves Lévesque affirmed that he thinks remarks by Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay might go too far.

Tremblay said this week he's peeved by having "someone whose name I can't even pronounce come from Algeria … [and] make the rules."

Tremblay spurred a series of reactions after voicing his opinion, including people ridiculing his comment on YouTube.

But Lévesque said Tremblay still reflects a "silent majority" in Quebec who don't want crucifixes removed from public buildings or prayers abolished at city halls.

And he bridled that often those who do are "not even immigrants" but "people from here."

The typically outspoken Tremblay said Tuesday night he's angered by the Parti Québécois's election campaign proposal to draft a secular charter that would remove conspicuous religious symbols from public institutions.

He accused the party of letting a PQ candidate "who doesn't understand our culture at all" guide the non-religious movement.

The PQ candidate in Trois-Rivières — Djemila Benhabib, who has Cypriot and Algerian heritage — was a prominent face when the party announced its plans for the secular charter. She has previously stated the Quebec national assembly should remove the crucifix over the Speaker's chair, but now says she's fine with her party's view that it can stay.

Lévesque said that Tremblay's comments might have pushed the limit, but he maintained that religion shouldn't be scrubbed from public life.

"Sometimes he goes too far, but we know he's that way. And I think it depicts the situation somewhat what the majority of people think, the silent majority in Quebec, about this whole thing about a secular charter," Lévesque told Montreal radio station 98.5 FM on Thursday in French.

"We have traditions in Quebec that have existed for a very long time, and it's a shame to see that the minority are succeeding in stopping those traditions. It's not even immigrants, often. Often it's people from here."

Lévesque pointed to a case brought before Quebec's Human Rights Commission where a French-speaking white woman succeeding in forcing Trois-Rivières city council to cease from opening all its meetings with a prayer led by the mayor.

"It was a Québécoise pure laine who got prayer shut down at city hall," Lévesque said, using a term sometimes employed in Quebec, albeit divisively, to refer to people having distant French-Canadian ancestry.

"Often it's not immigrants but old-stock Québécois who want us to make public institutions secular."